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2. Know Your Audience

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Google's on-going quest to make search results more valuable to the user experience requires refining your content strategy so that it is highly relevant to your audience and potential customers beyond identifying obvious keywords around your products and services.

But how do you develop a solid audience-centric content strategy for the digital age?

Persona Analysis

It begins with a well-defined persona analysis plan...When Find and Convert engages a new client, we do the prerequisite discovery that any respectable digital marketing agency delivers. Before we dive into keyword research though, we begin with an in-depth collaborative persona analysis process to discover direct and indirect audiences that actually live in our client's digital journey. The objective is to discover highly relevant yet sometimes indirect keywords that are significant to the way in which our clients solve their customer's needs, and then integrate them into the content across digital assets.

Often times, our clients have a clear perception of their buyers. The objective of the persona analysis is to look beyond the most obvious audiences and discover related verticals that are relevant to the buying journey. And to keep the discovery smooth and focused, we unveil the process in steps.

Step One: Identifying Groups

Groups consist of a number of related audience silos relevant to a business. Sometimes groups are as simple as buyers, indirect influencers and promoters.

But for most businesses, it is rarely that simple. Let's take a look at ACME manufacturing as an example. ACME sells a variety of LEED-approved widgets used in residential and commercial construction sold through big box stores and through other distribution channels. Their ultimate buyers are consumers, construction firms and distributors. However, are the buyers always the decision makers? While it is possible, more likely the buying process is greatly influenced through additional channels and influencers not directly related to ACME. Identifying the need for the widget may require creating awareness of its existence to the architect, sub-contractor, designer or other influencers that have nothing to do with the actual purchase. So how do you get discovered when your target audience may not yet be aware that you offer the perfect solution to their needs? In order to be discovered, you need to be found through quality, informational content in highly relevant searches and communities.

A more accurate grouping of this example may look something like this as your target customer and the primary influencers or decision makers may be in loosely related or even completely unrelated communities and interests on the web:

Step 2: The Breakdown

Once everyone has agreed on the roles and who belongs in each group, we break down the groups further into specific sections. In this persona example, we created four sections. One for each silo that we will examine in closer detail:

Step 3: Identifying Audience Needs

Once we have established roles within each group, we unveil Step 3. We ask our clients to remove themselves from the equation by not thinking about their company, their products or their services. Instead, we ask them to think of themselves in each role and focus on the individual needs, the pain points and the problems that may require a solution. When then ask them to identify the pain points for each type of role. We do this for each of the groups within each identified silo.

Step 4: Identifying Company Solutions

As a digital agency that is deeply passionate about meeting our clients' needs (my apologies if that sounds a little advertorial), this is usually the rewarding ah-ha moment for us and our client. Pre-conceived ideas on messaging begin to take a right turn as often times, additional audience-centric messaging opportunities emerge.

Step 5: Keyword Free Association

Before we can identify relevant messaging or content valuable to your audience and how they will discover your content, we need to free associate words and simple phrases in each group that pertain to those pain points and solutions. We do this using one-to-three word phrases.

Step 6: Keyword Research

Now keyword research can begin. Out of the thousands of keywords and variations that Google will suggest as you begin researching the word associations you have discovered, a pattern will begin to emerge in identifying keywords relevant to your audiences, your services and products that are pertinent to your content marketing goals. These root keywords or themes will often fall into one of three types of messaging: Brand-centric, industry-centric and audience-centric.

Why Identifying Brand, Industry and Audience-Centric Keywords Are Important

Our primary objective in this exercise is to define an audience-centric content strategy. Understanding the relationship between themes that are advertorial, industry informational and highly relevant to your targeted audience's interests will help you stay focused. You'll be empowered to create and deliver highly relevant content that is eagerly discovered and consumed by your direct and indirect target audiences through social and search behaviors. Identifying the most relevant keywords into three segments forms a topic strategy for your website, blogging content and other digital assets within your content marketing strategy.

Please share with us via comments below any ideas you have developing your own content strategy that helps your social and writing team deliver valuable content to your audience's interests.

Content Marketing

by Kevin Cain

For any piece of content to be successful, it has to be personalized and speak to a specific person (a potential buyer), with a specific need, at a specific point in his or her buyer journey. Put another way, you have to have targeted content that reflects a deep understanding of who your audience and where they are on their way down the path to purchase.

To create targeted content, you need the appropriate messaging to shepherd that audience through every step in their journey. For example, depending on where your audience is in their buying process, they may need content that:

  • Raises awareness by helping them understand what your company does and that you understand a particular set of problems they face.
  • Promotes discovery by drawing their attention to the fact that your company has the products or services necessary to solve those problems.
  • Fosters comparisons by allowing your company to showcase its knowledge, expertise, and high-quality products and services, thus differentiating you from your competitors.
  • Encourages a sale by providing the right information to ensure that the target has everything he or she needs to confidently purchase your products and services.

The tone of your message, as well as how often you communicate it, will vary depending on where your target audience is in its journey. For B2B content to be truly effective, it needs to resonate with the very specific audience it is intended for. Simply put, a one-size-fits-all approach rarely works.

Of course, understanding your buyers' journey is only part of the equation. To truly create targeted content, you also need to thoroughly understand who your buyers are and develop detailed personas for them.

Developing Buyer Personas is the Key to Creating Targeted Content

To really understand the buyers you're targeting, it's critical to take the time to construct corresponding personas, i.e., detailed profiles of those buyers made up of a combination of demographic and behavioral information. Those personas should clearly illustrate who your buyers are, which pain points they share, which factors they care about the most, and where they stand in the buying process. Doing so is often the most important step toward ensuring that the content you create will resonate with your audience. To build those personas, you need to do some research.

Gather Information

Demographic information, including:

Start by gathering some basic information. Interview your existing customers. Talk to your customer-facing colleagues. Mine any databases you may have. Your goal is to identify your customers' most obvious and important characteristics, bearing in mind the need to focus on the actual people, not the companies they work for. As part of your data collection effort, you'll be looking for two main types of characteristics:

Behavioral information, including:

  • Job title, role, and responsibilities
  • Department
  • Company size
  • Industry
  • Location
  • Budget

  • Motivating factors
  • Expectations
  • Concerns and pain points
  • Role in the purchasing process
  • Understanding of your products and services
  • Needs met to ensure a purchase

Develop Personas

The VP of operations at a company with more than $10 million in annual revenue who needs a better e-mail archiving solution. She has an existing service in place that she finds frustrating because it's too slow and unreliable. She's in the research phase of the buying process and is the primary decision maker. Although she's not aware of our solution, her pain points directly align with our product's core value proposition. While price is an important motivating factor to purchase, she's most concerned with functionality and ease-of-use.

Using the information you gather, develop a persona like the following that describes who they are:

Be sure to create multiple personas to correspond with the various types of buyers you're targeting. Doing so will not only force you to think about your target buyers more systematically, but also to craft content that's more customized for their needs. When you know who you are writing for, what challenges they face, and what expectations they have, it's much easier to create targeted content that will resonate and ultimately help get them to buy.

Ch. 2 Section 3: The Content Process ►